Epona News – November 2, 2012

In this issue:

Surprising insights into herd dynamics

Read the introduction to Linda’s new book


The Challenge of Wide Open Spaces: 
Harnessing the Power of the Herd

What might we all accomplish if we finally understood how to be powerful, together?

In Linda Kohanov’s upcoming book The Power of the Herd, she takes an in-depth look at traditional herding cultures where tribes must manage large groups of powerful animals without the benefit of fences. As a result, Master Herders employ a sophisticated understanding of leadership and group cohesion as they move through seasonal grazing lands, facing predators and dealing with changing climates/resources along the way. This knowledge, virtually lost to modern “civilized” leaders, is based in part on the little-known fact that among cattle and horses, the herd leader and the herd dominant are often different animals. Furthermore, group coordination and solidarity are reinforced through acts of daily acts of companionship and nurturing.

“Nurturers, companions, leaders, and dominants are all crucial to herd cohesiveness,” Linda writes. “Members tend to play more than one role, though rarely all four. The thing about being human among animals ten times your size is that you really do need to perform all of these roles well to become a Master Herder, especially in the great unfenced backcountry where freedom abides.”

Over the last year, Linda has drawn compelling new insights from this research to create a variety of horse-facilitated activities that effectively teach the nonverbal leadership and communication skills associated with these varied roles, boosting people’s ability to engage in empowered relationships with humans—at work, school, home, church, and in political and social activism contexts. “It’s truly amazing what you can accomplish if you know how to engage leadership, dominance, and companionship-related skills—without becoming abusive or indulgent,” she says. “Understanding the differences between these ‘power tools,’ when to employ them and how to combine them has been a revelation!”

Those who attended Linda’s October Pioneering Spirit workshop were impressed with the horse-facilitated work—and the use of her new book as a text that offers explicit instructions on how to take these equine-inspired insights back to the human world.

“The simple processes that Linda teaches are a wonderful take-away that can be applied to our everyday lives,” says Lisa Walters, an entrepreneur, equine-facilitated learning practitioner, and founder of the EquuSatori Center in Sebastopol, CA. “This workshop deepened my personal awareness while demonstrating how we are connecting with others and the collective power in that connection. Her new book is bound to be another best seller! Linda does a great job linking the concepts in The Power of the Herd with history, current research and modern science; a powerful combination that will no doubt enhance the Equine Experiential Learning (EEL) field. I would not be surprised if Linda’s new enhanced emotional message chart becomes a staple in EEL programs world wide.”

Other EEL innovators who have received a pre-release copy of the book have been inspired to include Power of the Herd principles in their own practices. Laura Brinkerhoff, a psychotherapist and experienced horsewoman who created an innovative equine-based program at a residential treatment center, notes: “I am incorporating the 12 guiding principals into our barn philosophy in a conscious way and continuing sharing the wisdom of mutual aid and non predatory power with my clients and staff (and my husband! Happy to say we LIVE it! ) This is a revolutionary book sure to take our work and human consciousness to a whole new level!”

Participants who attend the upcoming Pioneering Spirit: Leadership for the Twenty-First Century workshop November 15 through 18 will also receive a pre-release copy of the book, which is due to be published in March 2013. We still have three open spaces in this cutting-edge workshop. For information on how to register for this fast-approaching event, contact Sue Smades at info@eponaquest.com or 520-455-5908.

We also have a couple of spaces open in the first ever Eponaquest Leadership Apprenticeship, which will start in December. This multi-week program teaches professionals how to work with horses to teach leadership, team building, and personal empowerment skills through horse-facilitated activities. Again, contact Sue Smades for more information.

In the meantime, here’s a quick rundown of some of the skills you will learn during the upcoming Pioneering Spirit workshop (and what you will learn to teach during the leadership apprenticeship).

You will learn:

  • When and how to employ the roles of Leader, Dominant, and Nurturer/Companion
  • How to help others manage fear and anxiety in times of significant change or competition
  • How to use your own body as a “sensing device” capable of reading the unspoken moods/concerns of co-workers, employees, and clients
  • How to use emotions as information in a business setting (without, ironically, discussing the emotions themselves)
  • How to turn “difficult conversations” into trust-building opportunities
  • How to engage “Emotional Heroism,” which Linda defines as “power combined with compassion,” in challenging situations

You will practice:

  • Engaging non-verbal leadership skills associated with assertiveness, timing, focus, energy modulation, motivation, experimentation, and boundaries-in-motion—with sensitivity to the needs of others
  • Setting boundaries with aggressive people in ways that create mutually respectful relationships
  • Balancing embodied reason and embodied intuition in realizing a goal
  • Recognizing and moving beyond limiting behavior and thought patterns to achieve optimal performance


A Timely Overview of Linda’s New Book

It seems fitting that during the week leading up to another U.S. presidential election, Linda puts our leadership challenges into perspective in the Introduction to The Power of the Herd:


Throughout history, knights in shining armor often rode spirited, well-trained horses like those featured on the cover of this book. If you’re an experienced equestrian, however, you know that these luminous creatures aren’t white; they’re gray. And they were, in all likelihood, born black.

Pure white horses are extremely rare. Some experts argue that they don’t even exist. All those movie heroes racing around on snow-colored stallions are riding older mounts whose youthful coal-colored coats have lightened dramatically over time — as their focus, self-control, and athletic prowess increased through years of careful training.

Dark horses slowly turning gray, then silver, then white are the perfect metaphor for developing power — innovative, compassionate, mentally, emotionally, and socially intelligent power. The more faithfully we work to bring our talents out of the shadows, shining a light on those notoriously elusive areas related to creativity, charisma, and mutually supportive relationships, the more quickly we are bound to excel.

If black horses represent unconscious, unbridled spirit, energy, intuition, and instinct, the process of developing this raw “material,” of making it fully conscious, is, truly, the path we must undertake today. We can no longer wait for great leaders to emerge accidentally, as radiant freaks of nature whose inspiring presence nonetheless remains mysterious, untranslatable, unteachable to others. The stakes are much too high.

In my fifty-plus years on this planet, so much has changed. Like millions of other baby boomers, I’ve seen racial segregation and “traditional,” 1950s-style family structures erode and evolve under the influence of civil rights, women’s liberation, the sexual revolution, the fall of the communist empire, financial deregulation, economic strife, and the creation of the Internet, among other social and technological upheavals.

Many of these forces combined in 2008, leading to the election of Barack Obama, our first mixed-race U.S. president, a development my conservative Southern grandparents couldn’t have imagined in their wildest dreams. Yet no matter who runs for this coveted office in the future, this election marked a significant turning point in American history—for other reasons as well.

The Republican ticket would have been equally disturbing to my prim and proper grandma: A conventionally respectable war hero with an outspoken woman vice-presidential running mate—whose daughter was pregnant out of wedlock, no less? In the mid-twentieth century, this self-proclaimed “mamma grizzly” would have been completely, unquestionably ostracized by members of her own sex for all kinds of behavior unbecoming a matriarch.

Despite her seemingly militant support of traditional values, Sarah Palin’s very presence on that political stage represented a significant innovation for a new kind of family, one in which empowered women might also show compassion and acceptance for the many challenges future generations face upon entering this world. What she was saying in her conservative, at times aggressive speeches hadn’t quite yet caught up to the promise of what she was living. Maverick indeed!

No wonder so many people are reeling from the sensation of a finely woven, antique rug being pulled out from under them. Over the last century, rapid social change has led to more freedom for more people, of course, and plenty of fear and conflict to go with it, challenging former slaves and masters alike to modify not only their self-image and beliefs, but their most cherished, deeply entrenched, primarily unconscious behaviors.

It is the latter that we will investigate, and hopefully transform, in this book: the power plays, traumas, and relational habits we must alter to move forward productively as free, empowered people. Here we stretch beyond “liberal” and “conservative” agendas, looking at behavior patterns that wreak havoc beneath the surface of all cultural, religious, business, political, scientific, and philosophical persuasions.

In Part I (chapters one through eight), we’ll learn some surprising things about our ancestors as we survey “A Brief History of Power,” taking a look at key, time-tested, yet long-ignored features of innovative leadership. Part II (chapters nine through twelve) will focus on “The Necessity of Vision.” Here we wrestle with issues related to visionaries, including those who became religious figures, to understand how we can move beyond crucifying or worshipping creative, inspired thinkers, artists, and social activists—to become innovators and leaders ourselves. Finally, in Part III, “Horse Sense at Work,” we’ll practice new leadership and social intelligence skills that build on the expanded view of history, science, and religion the first twelve chapters explore.

To make this potentially treacherous journey a bit more enjoyable, we’ll travel on horseback, riding an animal that has, since the beginning of civilization, helped us negotiate new territory with much more speed and grace than we could possibly manage on our own two legs. But here’s the rub: After leaving the main road, we’re going to drop the reins and let the horses lead us at times, revealing a socially intelligent, non-predatory approach to leadership, innovation, collaboration, and power. And it is here that some readers will feel another rug slipping out from underneath them.

In recognizing that animals have much to teach us—that they have, as the recent scientific research presented in this book suggests, been tutoring, empowering, healing, and transforming us all along—we will have to let go of the idea that we are the only intelligent species on the planet.

On July 7, 2012, a prominent international group of scientists made this assertion official. Based on decades of physiological and behavioral experiments with multiple species, “The Cambridge Declaration on Consciousness” stated “unequivocally” that “non-human animals have the neuroanatomical, neurochemical, and neurophysiological substrates of consciousness states along with the capacity to exhibit intentional behaviors. Consequently, the weight of evidence indicates that humans are not unique in possessing the neurological substrates that generate consciousness.” The document acknowledges that “neural networks aroused during affective states in humans are also critically important for generating emotional behaviors in animals.” This includes “all mammals and birds, and many other creatures, including octopuses.”

Accepting that other species can think, feel, and make intentional decisions is a game changer for everyone. This does not mean, however, that animals always share our perspectives or priorities. As this book unfolds, you’ll be grateful that they often don’t, especially in the case of highly social, non-predatory animals like horses who offer alternative approaches to power, collaboration, and “freedom through relationship,” lessons they’ve occasionally taught exceptional leaders throughout history.

Imagine if all of us could, finally, bring these lessons out of the shadows and employ them consciously, creating a form of shared leadership that taps the talents of the entire herd. What might we accomplish if we finally understood how to be powerful, together?


Linda Kohanov
Amado, Arizona
September, 2012





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